"The enemy of my enemy is my friend," often used by President George Bush Senior.
The foreign craft had the appearance and markings that would remind someone of a great bird of prey. It was about the size of a light cruiser, and by the looks of it, it could fight. However, it was also an exploration vehicle as described by the occupants of it. Like the /Artemis,/this ship was also out looking for new worlds and systems, but ran into asnag. However, at that point, Mercury and Serenity said for that to wait, and told them that they would tend to their medical needs first. They could tell their story later. In the meantime, arrangements were to be made to send medical teams to their ship. After some discussions, they found that the wounded ship had an atmosphere mix of more carbon dioxide in their air than what humans were used to, but it was not fatal. Thus, Mercury told everyone to work slowly and carefully, as the air mix might mess with their though patterns a bit until they had acclimatized. Once on board, they quickly discovered that this was a race of birds that came from the raptor side of things. They were human enough in appearance, except that they had wings, but hands and digits on the top crook of the wing. They wore no tops, as their feathers made for their covering. They did wear kilt-like bottoms through which their tail feathers could extend with no problems, and form fitting helmets that seemed to depict some kind of job or rank structure. Their talons were exposed, and they proved adept at using them as well as their hands, and often seemed to prefer the use of them more. Their faces were avian as well, but they had developed a speech with their tweeting, clicks, and chirps that seemed to effect a phonetic feel to it. They called themselves Zoarians, being that their home world was named Zoar, and they indeed considered themselves a proud warrior race. Mercury then told them to start looking up proper care for birds, and amplify some of those things to take care of the wounded. They had hollow bones, which meant that they were also capable of flight, and they took all this into account. Unlike the Moundians, they were nearly strict carnivores, but who also seemed to mix berries and small fruits in with their diet. They were thus fed as they were tended to. Once things began to come under control, the captain of the ship met with Queen and Queen Serenity, along with Commodore and Venus, to get the full story of what had happened.
The captain, a hen named Scleea, explained where she was from, and that was determined to be 61 Cygni alpha. They were on an exploration mission, and they were in the vicinity of a star known to Earth as Delta Pavoins. They had come to learn that the star had a spacefaring race, but because the nature of the star was such that it was ceasing its fusing hydrogen into helium, it was becoming a red giant, slowly but surely. Indeed, that would take some time, but enough change had happened as to where their planet was starting to die, and they were in the process of evacuating the planet. When we had heard this, we had compassion on them, and we knew of an uninhabited world around a planet in the binary partner of 61 Cygni alpha. Because the stars were far enough apart, the tidal forces would not tear the worlds apart, but it did make for what could best be described as irregular seasons. In the same way that Earth has spring and neap tides, so they had"spring" and "neap" seasons. With a bit of adaptation, they could have moved. She then continued, "However, before we could communicate with them, a massive battle fleet arrived. They were cylindrical shaped ships, but wavy. As we monitored the communications, this invading fleet immediately called for the surrender of this world, but they said in return that they could have the planet, because it was dying anyway. They said that they were fleeing the dying star to settle somewhere else. Instead of being satisfied, the invaders then said that this race would then make good slaves. They begged and pleaded to be let go, for they had suffered enough already, but the invaders would not have it. They called for their immediate surrender, but when the fleeing race tried to do just that, the invaders cut them off. This race of beings did not have the weapons and defenses to fight such a fleet, and we felt obligated to intervene, even if only to get a few ships to safety. We are a warrior race ourselves, and some would consider us to be a race of conquest. Yet, we only do this when someone proves they have no peaceful intentions, and when that is clear, we not only defeat them, we take them over completely to ensure that something like that never happens again. We then absorb them into our culture. Even we would not stoop to attacking a much weaker race than us who were only concerned about the safety of their kind, and had done no wrong to the attacker. While we engaged, our intelligence people recorded as much of the transmissions as they could to find out who they were. However, they transmitted to us to stay out of the fight, or they would consider it adeclaration of war against them. We shot back that they were now enemies anyway, and that the enemy of our enemy was thus our allies, and therefore we were obligated to defend them. Yet, we only hoped to get a few away, but we were cut off and stopped. They pounded on us, but we barely escaped. They wiped out the entire race of beings! Our blood boils now against these beings that call themselves the Gnarl. We have no idea where they may be at, but once we find out, we shall fall on them with all our might, and ensure that their evil is stopped once and for all!"
The others sat silent, not sure what to think. There was no reason to think that her story was not true, and both Venus and Serenity wondered if the counterintelligence of their own world had ever detected anything even remotely like that approaching the Earth or the kingdom. Serenity then said, "I am going to call my husband and tell him what has happened. Perhaps he can shed some light on this. In the meantime, we shall get you back to your home world-you, and your gallant crew."
Scleea was grateful, as Serenity said, "My deepest apologies, your majesty, but there is a cause, and we must tend to it."
Queen understood, and the crew as called to alert. Liberty call was over, and now it was time to go to work.
The Catfish soon found itself orbiting a world around a star that, on their charts that only had a letter and number designation: CD-36 13940. It was a K-class star, meaning that any habitable planets would have to be closer to the parent star than for those around a G-class. The system itself was filled with many warships, with many shuttles racing back and forth between them, giving and indication that this fleet was ready for battle at any time. The transmissions that they were hearing were that they had just returned from a successful conquest, that an entire world was annihilated, and that the spoils were great. The crew of the Catfish and the outer scouts listened in solemn silence, anger beginning to boil in their veins, knowing that this new enemy had nothing but conquest on their minds, and not one shred of mercy. They did not know if it was their leaders that were so ruthless, or if the entire race of the Gnarl were just as harsh. They were hoping to find out.
On the planet's surface, the new servants were marched off the ship and led to a staging area. There, they were marched into what looked like locker rooms, and they served that purpose somewhat. Yet, they were told to strip and stow their clothes in a locker. Knowing that she did not want to lose the transmitter and translator, she quickly and discreetly took it off and hid it under the lockers out of sight. She then put the clothes in the locker as told, and it was then she realized that they were not making a distinction between male and female. Indeed, they all looked a bit conscious about this as they were marched off to a bathing area and given what they needed for that purpose. Considering that she could not understand them at this point, she just watched the others for clues in what to do. Once the shower was done, she was brought to the medical area, and they were checked at one time, being treated no better than a herd of horses. Once all those that were deemed needing quarantine for a time were separated out, they were marched back around to the room in which they stared, and they were then maneuvered to the lockers that now held the clothes that marked the jobs for which they were bought. The maid outfits, oddly enough, did not look too dissimilar to the kinds of outfits that maids of the Victorian era on earth would have worn. As she dressed, she once again retrieved the device and started to attach it. However, one of the guards grew suspicious, and now she had to hurry, but do so without being detected that she was trying to conceal the wire. She made her way through the crowd to a mirror and made like she was making some adjustments. She had just concealed things under the artificial fur when he came up. He looked her over, and finding nothing suspicious, just grunted and said, "You Nekonians are always so vain about appearances: but you can't fix ugly!" and gave her a shove in the back as he walked on. She only thought, "You're one to talk about ugly, rat face!"
The maids were called for, and they were put under the care of an elder Nekonian who had been there for some time. In private, she told them that she had no love for the Gnarl, but that she had to do what she had to do in order to stay alive. She, therefore, was strict in what she did, but it was only for two reasons: to stay alive herself, and to give her underlings what it would take to insure that they did not face a fate worse than death for failure. Thus, none should take anything personally, and that, sometimes, in order to best survive, one had to wear two faces. Olympia then thought, "You don't know the half of it!"
With that, they were being led around the royal mansion...if you could call it a mansion. They actually tunneled in and made their homes inside the landscape as if they were Pueblo Indians. However, that did not mean that things were primitive. They, in fact, looked quite advanced, and yet very basic in things-not very stylish. Yet, looking around, Olympia was trying to assess how easy it would be to invade this world. They could tunnel in to the mountainside, which would make it incredibly difficult to get them out without great cost of life-either on their side, or civilians getting caught in the crossfire. Despite that, she began to try to gauge weaponry, defensive positions, and the disposition of their soldiers, and anything that might aid in defeating these people. Soon, Mirini and Olympia/Prr'ann were led into aroom that made Olympia's eyes go wide. It appeared that they were going to work in the library, tending to the maintenance in there, as well as acting like librarians, and bringing and fetching books as they were called for in other places within the royal residence. Mirini saw that and said, "So, you like to read, little one?"
Olympia smiled and pumped her head up and down, but it was for another reason. She had to believe that all kinds of records-either common or restricted-were contained in there. She also knew that, if she needed to see into the restricted areas, all she needed to do was make copies of certain things and put them back before they were noticed. If not, she could wait for the outer scouts to come to the planet's surface and let them, with their spy equipment, break into those things and take what they needed.
After a day of training, and hard work, they were shown their room. It was a bay kind of a set-up, and Mirini snuffed at that, saying,"These people have no clue as to what privacy means! Don't worry, Prr'ann: if someone wants to try something unseemly, they won't get past me."
Olympia thought, "/I would have told you the same thing!/"
However, for Olympia, considering her training, and how she was living prior to this in a tight crew area, this was the lap of luxury, and she was going to make the most of it. They all ate in a cafeteria style of dining, and they were all scowled at and told that they had better appreciate what they had, for other slaves did not get this kind of treatment. Later that night, when everyone was asleep, she got up and put on the top dress. She looked around to see what kind of guarding they had, and she realized that in the latrine was the best place, because there was no way to make an escape through there. She snuck in and started to call for the /Catfish/. She was worried that they had not gotten there yet, but after about five minutes of sweating, the communications officer said, "/Catfish /here: this has to be CPO Olympia."
"Roger," she whispered, "I have been put in the inner-sanctum itself-the royal palace. I am a maid in the library, and I should be running around the place enough to get a lay of things, as well as data on the people and culture here. I will have more as I get it."
"Roger, Olympia," he responded, "We are now in geosynchronous orbit over your location, and shall remain there awaiting your reports."
"Roger, out," said Olympia, cutting the transmission short, lest she may be found or detected. With that, she slipped back to the bunk and went to sleep. She had not anxieties about being there. This was what was needed for the mission, and she was getting"three hots and a cot", so she had nothing over which to complain. All it would do is make her job easier.
Serenity contacted her husband and explained the whole thing. As soon as he heard that, he said, "Finish bringing them home and establish what you can with them. Then you are to come home, because we have encountered the very ones they fought."
"When was this," asked Serenity, all curious.
He hedged in his answer, because he did not want to let her know how long this thing had been a threat. His hesitance made her turn her head and look at him oddly. He let out a heavy sigh and said, "We were attacked while you were on the first world."
"AND YOU DIDN'T TELL ME!" she shrieked.
He leaned back from the screen, knowing that his wife was plenty mad now, and he said, "Dear, we didn't have full details on..." but she cut him off and said, "There was danger out here and you said NOTHING? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"
"/Yup...she's upset!/" he thought, as he said, "Angel, look...we didn't yet know the extent of things. What would you have done? I think, by your reaction, you would have panicked."
"I would not have!" she snapped, looking very much like her teenage self at that moment, pouting all the way.
"Then, what would you have done?"
"I'd...well..." but she couldn't say, as she just sat there, bouncing her forefingers together, looking like a naughty girl that had been caught grabbing a forbidden cookie. She then said, "Well, it still would have been nice to know."
He sighed and said, "I know, and I am sorry. This is afirst for me as well. The kingdom has never had to face a foe before, so everything is kind of new for all of us. Perhaps I overreacted, and I am sorry. I should have told you: no more secrets."
She gave him a coquettish look and a cute smile as she said,"You promise?"
He just laughed and said, "I told you so, Dumpling Head!"
She smiled, but looked cross at the same time and said, "Ooh, you're going to get it when I get home!"
She then asked, "So, what's going on right now?"
"The outer scouts are doing some counterintelligence work right now. However, we don't know what is going on, because they have to maintain radio silence for success in the mission."
"Is that going to be okay?"
"Hey, you know how strong they are! They can take care of themselves. Worry for their foes: they don't know what is about to descend on them!"
They pecked each other's image and wished each other well as they broke communications. She then went to the bridge as the Artemis was preparing to take off. Venus then said, "So, what did he say?"
She hung her head and said, "This may be worse than we think...and..."
She went silent as everyone was now listening intently to her. Venus, consumed with curiosity, then said, "..and what!"
"We may be going to war," she responded, hanging her head.
Now the silence hit like a tidal wave as the grim realization of her words were sinking into the crew. A war was the last thing they wanted, but now they may have to face. A triumphant day had to turn to a sad one, as they now realized that, on that day, the Golden Era of the Silver Millennium Kingdom had come to an end.